An alumnus of Tulsa's Holland Hall School may hold the key to control of the U. S. Senate. Sean Haugh, Holland Hall Class of 1979, is the Libertarian nominee for Senate in North Carolina. He is on the ballot with Democrat incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis.
While Hagan is consistently polling below 50%, she still leads Tillis by 3.4% percentage points in the latest RCP average. In the latest Rasmussen poll, Hagan leads Tillis 48% to 46%, with 2% preferring "another candidate." A month ago, the gap was 45 to 39 with 6% preferring another candidate. The latest USA Today poll has a 0.4% lead for Hagan, with 4% preferring Haugh. NBC News' latest, from a week ago, had Hagan up by 4%, with 7% preferring Haugh.
Republicans are concerned that Haugh may act as a spoiler; if he were out of the race, the theory goes, most of his voters would prefer the Republican to the Democrat. The third-party spoiler effect has been claimed in the 1992 presidential election, with Ross Perot drawing disaffected Republicans; the 2000 presidential election, with Green Party nominee Ralph Nader accused of taking votes from Al Gore; the 2002 Oklahoma governor's race between Brad Henry, Steve Largent, and Gary Richardson; and last year's Virginia governor's race. The counterargument is that third-party candidates attract many voters who would otherwise stay home.
The Third Party candidate may not be drawing support in the way observers assume. In that USA Today poll, 9 of the 22 respondents who preferred Haugh said they would vote for Hagan if Haugh were out of the race, while only 4 would move their vote to Tillis; the other 9 were undecided or refused to answer. That's an exceedingly small subsample with a very high margin of error, but it suggests that Haugh may be helping to keep the race close rather than helping to protect the Democrat incumbent.
Sean Haugh graduated from Tufts in 1983 and spent much of his post-college life working as a Libertarian Party organizer and activist. He served as the executive director of the North Carolina Libertarian Party and the political director of the national party. He was the party's Senate nominee for this seat in North Carolina in 2002. He retired from politics in 2010 and now delivers pizza for a living.
Haugh's campaign manager is Rachel Mills, who served for six years as Ron Paul's communications director in his Washington office and worked on his presidential campaigns. In a blog entry, Mills explains that she offered her skills to Republican Greg Brannon, who lost to Tillis in the primary, and then offered to help Tillis, but both campaigns ignored her:
I met with (Republican Senate primary candidate) Greg Brannon first in January of 2013 and detailed my experience, and let him know I was available to him in any capacity he needed. Anything at all. He seemed really enthused, thankful - blessed, even - to have someone like me available for his team. But as soon as he brought on an official campaign manager, I got the old "We'll call you." treatment. I never heard back. When I finally said heck with it and volunteered to help with a mailing, it was made very clear to me that I was not welcome to even do that. Perhaps I'll never know why I was good enough to work side by side with Ron Paul for 5 years, but not good enough to lick envelopes for Brannon. Greg Brannon lost.
After it was clear Brannon wasn't having me, I approached Tillis. Told him I'd like to help him reach out to the liberty folks and bring the party together. I'm a pragmatic type and see this as a great approach. If you want them, let me help you understand them and figure out how to appeal to them. Let's ask for their vote. "That sounds great. We'll call you." I waited a long time. I even went to his primary victory party and met all the key people in person. I was sincere in my offers to help. I understand though, that he had a ton of resumes flying around his head, of course, and by no means was I a shoe-in or entitled there either. I do think I would have been a smart hire. Fine to disagree.
Then Sean called. Together we developed a very simple way to spread a tangible, common sense liberty message, straight to the people, non-focus grouped, what you see is what you get, delivered by an everyman, not a politician. Sean and I together have the political experience to know the rules enough to properly break them - hence the beer on camera, the casual demeanor, etc. We are also on a shoestring so we have to consider what Sean can do well - and that is to just be himself.
Sean might not win, but look what we've accomplished together! A Washington Post reporter flew down JUST to interview Sean in my toy-strewn basement! And that was just the beginning. He's had lots of national attention on all the major networks and is polling much stronger than expected. He's even included in a debate! It's been very professionally, though not financially, gratifying.
Mills concludes that the Republican establishment may have to learn the hard way, through some lost elections, that they can't take libertarian-oriented voters for granted.
Sean Haugh's YouTube channel is the heart of his voter outreach efforts.
About the title of this blog post: Sean was two years ahead of me at Holland Hall. It's impressive to see how little he seems to have aged. A few grey hairs, deeper lines on the face, perhaps, but otherwise much as I remember him. It looks like the haircut and glasses are pretty much the same style. We reconnected some years ago when he was back in Oklahoma on behalf of an initiative petition to improve ballot access for Libertarians and other third parties. More recently I've been keeping up with his opinions on Facebook and Twitter (@EmperorSean).
When we were both in school, a freestanding chalkboard was left in the Commons, next to the southeast stairwell, after a school-wide lecture, students began to use it as a kind of graffiti wall. Jim Ringold began writing short, upbeat commentaries on the board, signing his essays with "The Friendly Philosopher." Sean Haugh responded with a cynical take on school life, signing his screeds with "The Unfriendly Philosopher." At some point, I began writing on the board, becoming "The Unfriendly Philosopher's Apprentice" and inheriting the title when Sean graduated.
Toward the end of sophomore year, I had decided to run for student council vice president. The vice president was in charge of stocking and maintaining the school's pop machine. (I don't remember if it was Coke or Pepsi or a mixture of the two, but the families who owned the rival bottling plants each had children at HH.) Sean agreed to support me, but he insisted that, if I won, he'd be able to load the machine with Foster's Australian Lager, as a sort of final, pre-graduation act of defiance. I didn't win (Stacy Schusterman and Pam Bloodgood did), and even if I had, as a teetotaler in a teetotaling Baptist family, I wasn't likely to let that happen.
Haugh, Hagan, and Tillis were part of a televised Senate debate tonight -- watch it online here. Tillis seems to say, "Sean is exactly right," as part of every answer.
Fiddler Jimmy Young, bassist Mac Macrae, fiddler Dale Morris, Jr., with the Texas Playboys at Bob Wills Birthday Bash, Cain's Ballroom, March 6, 2010. Photo by Joseph Bates
Western Swing Hall of Fame fiddler Jimmy Young passed away Friday, October 3, 2014, in Amarillo, Texas, at the age of 85. Young played in western swing bands all over Texas and Oklahoma, performing with Bob Wills, Hank Thompson, Ray Price, Lefty Frizzell, and other western music legends.
Young was born in Dunbar, Oklahoma, grew up in Tuskahoma, and moved to Oklahoma City, where he began performing professionally with bands and on KBYE radio. Around 1950, after service in World War II, Young moved to Amarillo. In 1964, Bob Wills sold the Texas Playboys, shedding the responsibility of running a band, and he toured solo, performing with local musicians. When Wills came to Amarillo, Young would be in his band.
Beginning in 1993, Young performed regularly with Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, headed by Leon Rausch and Tommy Allsup, and for 30 years or so, he played with the Amarillo-based Sugartimers Classic Country Dance Band. In 2005, Young was inducted into the Western Swing Society of the Southwest Hall of Fame. In 2009, Young performed with the Texas Playboys at the Texas State Society's Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C.
It was a highlight of the annual Bob Wills Birthday celebration at Cain's Ballroom to see Jimmy do his Bob Wills impersonation when the band played "Faded Love" and "San Antonio Rose." Jimmy, very close in stature to Bob Wills, would stick a Roi-Tan cigar in his mouth (unlit) and mimic Bob, conducting with his bow, nodding his head in time to the music, doing a little jig-step, and making his characteristic commentary, for example: "Now, friends, here's the song that took us off hamburgers and put us on to steaks -- the San Antonio Rose!"
His grandson Dustin Young wrote a touching tribute to his granddad in the Amarillo Globe:
Growing up, I was always fascinated by the sound of his fiddle as he would warm up before a show.
With rosin dust hovering in the air, and the hum of his amplifier, he would go back and forth between playing and turning knobs in order to find his desired sound, by which he would enchant yet another audience. During every show I went to, the sense of pride that consumed me when he stepped on stage was both exhilarating and heartwarming. After every good lick he would always shoot me a wide grin as if to say, "Listen to this. I'm fixing to burn the hair off of this bow!" In my opinion I always had the best seat in the house at those shows.
Every musician I've met that knew my grandpa ends up telling me how much they enjoyed his playing and above all his demeanor among his fellow bandsmen. In a business where many can be very snobbish, Jimmy Young had always maintained a genuine sense of humility. Some folks can get a little bit arrogant once they have been inducted into the hall of fame more than a few times. Such accolades might boost one's ego and fill their heart with self-importance, but not in his case. He had always been the same man from my viewpoint. Never was he the fiddle-playing extraordinaire, or the Bob Wills impressionist, to me he was and always will be Opa.
Jimmy Young feature story on the Bob Wills Day website.
2005 story about Jimmy Young, Chet Calcote, and other Texas Panhandle musicians being inducted into the Western Swing Hall of Fame
Jimmy Young obituary in the Amarillo Globe
Jimmy Young playing Faded Love and San Antonio Rose as Bob Wills, October 4, 2008, in Odessa, Texas:
A Chamber of Commerce working against the interests of taxpayers and conservative values isn't just a phenomenon local to Tulsa.
Oklahoma State Sen. Josh Brecheen, running for re-election to a second term, is celebrating the State Chamber of Commerce's decision to endorse his Democratic opponent.
"The Chamber is just another special interest group opposing me because I refuse to play ball with them. I'll never be a puppet for any special interests," says Brecheen.
"The National Federation of Independent Business, Oklahoma's leading small-business association, has endorsed Brecheen based on his 100 percent voting record for small businesses. Brecheen also earned a cumulative score of 90 from the Research Institute for Economic Development which was founded in part by the State Chamber. The average cumulative Senate Democrat RIED score is 57.
"It's ironic that the State Chamber, a group that claims to support small business owners, would oppose me and my four-year, pro-growth record in the Senate," says Brecheen. "Less than two years ago, the State Chamber sent out a mailer thanking me for my role in advancing workers comp reform. Apparently, that historic pro-business accomplishment is not nearly as important to the State Chamber as advancing the Obama vision for educational reform through Common Core. My Senate authorship of the Common Core repeal got rid of third-rate national education standards and will replace them with first-rate Oklahoma led standards."
Earlier this year, Brecheen voted in favor of SB 906, the National Popular Vote Compact, but wisely recanted his support for the leftist bill aimed at undermining America's presidential election system..
A friend posted this essay on Facebook, and I think he gets to the heart of the problem with Islam in America and the west. With his permission I'm reposting it here.
An Open Letter to Muslim Women in America
By Scott Pendleton
As a young journalist, I spent two years in Saudi Arabia. I did not dwell on a military base or in a company "compound", but in an apartment in a building otherwise occupied by a large Saudi family. I ate many meals with Saudis, including with women present. I photographed a wedding for a Saudi friend, which meant attending the evening festivity that was for women only, followed by the morning festivity for the men. In less happy circumstances, I took food to the local prison for my roommate, who had been arrested for drinking alcohol. I also witnessed an execution by stoning of a rapist/murderer.
Like most Westerners living in Arabia at that time, I was eager for peaceful co-existence among Muslims, Christians, and Jews. And eager for mutual appreciation, because there is much we can appreciate about each other.
While that remains true, well-wishers and dialog-promoters in the West are often embarrassed by the coercive aspects of Islam. Coercion cannot be reconciled to nor accommodated by the laws of the United States of America. To the extent that Islam is coercive, it cannot even be regarded by Americans as a valid religion. Well-wishers hope that Islam's coercive aspects stay out of sight. That is a naïve and dangerous impulse. The coercion has to be acknowledged and addressed.
For example, Islam declares any person who abandons that religion to be deserving of death. (Like the American's wife whom Sudanese authorities had sentenced to hang.) America was founded by people who were seeking the freedom to worship as they chose, a right that is now enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
So if you are a Muslim and live in the United States, you face this dilemma: If you disagree that apostates to Islam deserve death, what are you doing in Islam? But if you agree that they should die, what are you doing in America?
Something's gotta give.
Religious coercion versus American law is a topic of vital importance for American women who are thinking of marrying a Muslim and converting to that faith. Should they ever relocate to their husband's country, they forfeit the considerable protection afforded by American law against the coercive, anti-woman dictates of Islam.
As for foreign-born Muslim women currently living in America, hopefully they have become informed that American law endows them with rights and protections unavailable to women under an Islamic government.
Does Islam really discriminate against women? Consider the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is a civil-rights organization that advocates prominently on behalf of Muslims. Because of the shooting of the unarmed black teenager by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, CAIR issued a call for imams (preachers) to give sermons on racial equality in American mosques. That's commendable enough, though not surprising since so many immigrant Muslims are non-white.
Since CAIR weighed in on Ferguson, did it also respond to the NFL domestic violence scandal by asking imams to preach against wife-beating? No indeed, nor could it have done so, since many Muslims regard Islam as giving men explicit permission to beat their wives.
In the Koran, verse 4:34 tells how a husband who is at his wits' end over his wife's behavior may bring her back into line. Notice that, in a case of marital strife, the wife is automatically perceived as the problem, and the husband is authorized to exert discipline.
Husbands in such a dilemma are instructed by the Koran to take three steps of increasing pressure. First, try talking some sense into her. Second, stop having sex with her. Third, "daraba". This is the root of an Arabic word, kind of like "pound" or "drive" in English, which can mean anything from make a point verbally to someone, to have sex with someone, to hit someone.
Some Islamic scholars are adamant that a Muslim man may never under any circumstance hit his wives (he's allowed up to four). But the opposite view is very widely held, which is logical. Daraba in this usage wouldn't mean make a point, because that's what the husband did in step one. And it wouldn't mean have sex, because that's what he stopped doing in step two. So, for many Muslims, daraba as step three means to hit. They only debate how much force is allowed.
A Muslim woman better hope that her husband subscribes to the gentlest interpretation of daraba. Either that, or she better be living in America, where the law of the land trumps Islam.
Oklahoma State Sen. John Bennett caused a stir when he called Islam a cancer that must be cut out of America. I disagree. It is really Muslims residing in America who must cut out the cancer, the cancer of coercion, from their religion. They must speak up. They must repudiate those elements of Islam that are irreconcilable to American law. It's not merely a question of denouncing the beheading of innocent journalists. It's everything in Islam that makes an individual feel divinely empowered to judge and punish others - husbands over wives, the faithful over apostates.
Unless that repudiation is voluntarily, publicly, consistently forthcoming, then dialog with Muslims is out of the question. America is the land of the free.
Pendleton's caution to American women considering marrying a Muslim, converting, and moving back to the husband's country brings to mind the story of Betty Mahmoody and six-year-old daughter Mahtob, whose escape from revolutionary Iran was recounted in the 1991 movie "Not without My Daughter." That link connects to the "Reel Faces" website, which compares films to the true stories behind them.
Tattoo photos in the Facebook profile of someone calling himself Jah'Keem Yisrael matches tattoos named in the Department of Corrections record of Alton Alexander Nolen, the man eyewitnesses say beheaded a worker at a food processing plant in Moore, Oklahoma, on Thursday.
A number of websites uncovered the profile and suggested that it belonged to Nolen. Like Nolen, Yisrael graduated from Idabel High School and went to Langston University for college. The "selfies" in the profile strongly resemble the Oklahoma Department of Corrections mugshots of Nolen. But there has been some doubt, because the the profile uses "alton.threadgill" in the custom URL.
But a photo in Jah'Keem Yisrael's August 15, 2010, Facebook post shows a man (apparently the owner of the Facebook profile) with arm tattoos that match the DOC's records for Nolen. (Click to see full size.) The left forearm shows the word "JUDAH" in script capitals. The right forearm shows a tattoo of praying hands.
The DOC record for Alton A Nolen, DOB 08/16/1984, lists the following "Body Marks":
TAT ABDOM: NCIC AS-SALAAMU ATAIKUM
TAT CHEST: NCIC JESUS CHRIST
TAT L ARM: NCIC RIP LIL KRIS, JUDAH
TAT R ARM: NCIC PRAYING HANDS
The gaps in Jah'Keem Yisrael's Facebook timeline match up with the DOC record. No posts from September 20, 2010, until August 23, 2012, when he writes, "Feelin So Gud 2 B N Da City At Da Halway House....At dis moment im walkin round wit my shirt off n boi boi lol Yeh jst got thru job untin and she said sho my chest." The tone of his posts is in that vein until April 3, 2013, when he posts, "Allahu Aikbar Allahu Aikbar....." After about October, the posts are almost exclusively Islamic-themed.
Another confirmation of the tattoo: In a February 5, 2014, post, Jah'Keem Yisrael writes that the Twelve Tribes of Israel are today black Africans, Latin Americans, and American Indians and says in a comment (evidently responding to someone whose comments are not visible to the public),
The true jews that's here in Amerika today known as the black man was sold to the white man by the Africans because we weren't from there. Were from Israel. The Roman persecution put an end to the biblical jews known as the tribe of Judah which is tatted on my left forearm lol.
Among the more alarming recent Facebook entries:
On March 7, 2014, Jah'Keem Yisrael posted a set of three photos, writing:
Sharia Law will takeover (aka) Allah swt Law -Matthew 5:30 Cut the hands off the thieves, Deuteronomy 22:23-24 Stone to death the adulters, Any woman showing her hair in public must be shaved off 1st Corithians 11:5-7.. If your against the Sharia Law your against God. Now you know what freedom u guys are fighting for.
Islam is the true religion
The photos include a man holding a newspaper headline, "Islam will dominate the world / Freedom can go to hell", a graphic photo of a decapitation, and a photo of a woman in white middle-eastern dress being whipped in public by a hooded figure in black. (Click the links to view a screenshot of these photos posted to Facebook. WARNING: Photos are graphic.) The caption embedded in the decapitation photo reads,
Thus do we find the clear precedent that explains the peculiar penchant of Islamic terrorists to behead their victims: it is merely another precedent bestowed by their << Prophet >>:
"I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them." Qur'an 8:9-13
On the same date, he posted two more photos, one showing two boys prostrating themselves in prayer, the other showing four young boys in white head-coverings firing handguns.
If Allah (swt) Blesses me with an child, This for sure will be his status!!!!!!!
On March 30, 2014, he posted a salute to Osama bin Laden, writing:
"Do not say that those slain in the cause of God are dead. (They are alive, but you are not aware of them)" (2:154).
Osama Bin Laden (Salayi Wa Alayi Salaam Ameen)
The phrase in parentheses seems to be some form of the Arabic phrase meaning "Peace Be upon Him," a phrase often used in connection with Muhammad and other prophets.
We all liked the Gathering Place when it was a private institution pursuing a project on private property, but maybe it isn't so likable now when it's damaging public right-of-way for walkers, runners, and cyclists:
Most of the Midland Valley Trail will remain open, but its connection to the river will be severed as A Gathering Place for Tulsa construction gets underway.
The trail will be blocked off south of 26th Street to Riverside Drive until the first phase of construction is completed in 2017, planning officials said. It is portion of the trail that runs beside the former Blair Mansion property....
The Gathering Place property straddles the trail, and Stave [sic] didn't see how ongoing construction could keep it open to the public.
According to county assessor records, the trail is owned by the State of Oklahoma Department of Highways. The trail replaced the tracks of the Midland Valley Railroad. The state bought the rail line and right-of-way for construction of the Riverside Expressway, which would have left the Riverside corridor at that point, following the MVRR right-of-way to connect to the southeast interchange of the Inner Dispersal Loop. The Riverside Expressway plan was dropped in the 1970s in response to protests and lawsuits from Maple Ridge homeowners.
Although the closing of the trail will happen this week, the trail along Riverside Drive that connects to the walking bridge will remain open until the middle of 2015.
Stava said Riverside Drive construction will then shut down the affected portions of the River Parks East Trail along Riverside Drive.
The pedestrian bridge across the Arkansas River will also be shutdown in mid-2015 because pedestrians will have no place to go when crossing it from the west side, he said.
It's not said explicitly in the article, but the implication is that the bridge and east bank trail will also be closed until the end of the first phase of construction in 2017. That will create three dead-ends for our trail system -- the east bank trail approaching from the south, the east bank trail approaching from the north, and the Midland Valley trail -- and eliminate one of the easy loops around the river.
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some Tulsans use the east bank and Midland Valley trails to commute to work.
During highway construction, contractors do their best to allow traffic to continue, with at least one lane in each direction. Shouldn't cyclists and joggers get the same courtesy?
As a private institution, the George Kaiser Family Foundation can't shut down public roads or rights-of-way on its own initiative. So who in city or state government granted permission?
UPDATE: A reader who commutes by bicycle writes:
You mentioned that you "wouldn't be surprised" that some Tulsans use it to commute to work. That's me.
For the last two years, I have ridden my bike from our house at 37th and Riverside down to the River trail, across Riverside on the Pedestrian Bridge, and into downtown on the Midland Valley trail. Lately I have added a stop at the Forge gym at 3rd and Peoria to my route before work, as I can make it to within a block or two using the north end of that trail. It is safe and keeps me off of the rush hour streets.
There are several other bikers I see every morning with backpacks like mine, clearly headed to work. It is our commuter street, and it's being completely shut down for 3 years. I can route around the closed portion, but for me it means I will have to cross Riverside at street level at 31st, cut to Boston Place, go north through Maple Ridge to 26th, then west to get back to the trail. If they close 31st at Riverside for the construction office, it will make it even more challenging. I would otherwise cut through the apartment complexes on Cincinnati (the only through street to get to 31st besides going up Peoria), but when they start demolition of the complexes in January they will undoubtedly close off some of that.
So who gave them permission? Good question.
Good point about the apartment complexes. Cincinnati Ave. is the only place to cross Crow Creek between Riverside and Peoria, the only connection between Maple Ridge and the northern residential part of Brookside to the Brookside commercial district that is safe and comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists. The Legacy at Riverview (formerly Place One) sits on both sides of Cincinnati just south of the Crow Creek bridge. The city ought to insist that this public street be kept open during demolition and construction, but given their apparent readiness to close public rights-of-way for three years for the benefit of a private project, I have a feeling the city won't press the issue with GKFF.
Rob Asghar, writing in Forbes, offers some noteworthy insights about organizations, accountability, and game-changing leaders. Asghar calls Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill Church, the "Enron of American churches":
In life, blowhards and bullies will inevitably rise up and do their thing. In the field of management, they tend to rise up and do it with extra frequency and impact. And in religious organizations, they can often do it with maximum impact, because the whole enterprise is usually founded on the notion of absolute authority....
Nondenominational megachurches... often can be free-wheeling, Wild West-style operations, unencumbered by national bureaucracies. That frees them to respond to grow quickly ... or to grow malignantly.
Gautaum Mukunda, author of Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter, has noted that most leaders in most industries are "filtered" by a sorting-and-screening system specific to their profession. But a few are "unfiltered," and may get into a major leadership job without first being scrutinized as closely. The latter, unfiltered leaders are what he calls "extreme leaders"--the game changers, for better and for worse. But in most cases, the nutjobs and the geniuses are alike filtered out by the system....
Personality cults end badly, because anyone objective finds themselves mauled by loyalists trying to hold the cult together. (Eric Hoffer's The True Believer remains a pivotal resource for understanding the motivations of cult-type personalities, who often have their entire identities fused into their nation, organization or holy cause.)...
But a number of psychologists have told me that the truly toxic leaders, the ones who manage to cause trouble on the scale of a Driscoll, are tragically irredeemable as managers. Oftentimes, the disciplining process only teaches them new ways to exploit the system while pretending to obey it.
Redemption for these fallen stars, Asghar writes, doesn't happen by getting back in the spotlight but "by finding some way to be of productive service without being in charge of large budgets and large communities." (John Profumo comes to mind as the model of a fallen leader who devoted himself to service and never sought a return to power.)
Asghar confesses "a strong revulsion for the bullying and sociopathy that happen far too often within the world of management" -- particularly in the spiritual realm. Why do these sorts of situations happen again and again?
In another article about Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, Asghar writes that toxic followers enable toxic leaders:
Some years ago, former Los Angeles Times religion writer William Lobdell wrote about his experiences covering the sexual abuse scandals of the Catholic Church. Lobdell shared that what broke his spirit wasn't the way the church leaders refused to see the truth, but rather the way the ordinary laypersons refused to see it-how they shouted down peers bold enough to speak honestly about their traumas, how they sought to rationalize any evil done by their beloved leaders.
That's one crucial aspect of the link between toxic leaders and followers. In the case of megachurches, there's also the appeal of protecting one's part in a big, impressive show -- like being a regular at the cool club that everyone talks about. The star of the show is usually an uber-charismatic, dramatic salesperson. Like the brash and humorous Driscoll.
Narcissism sells. People rally around it, even when they should know better. But as Jim Collins showed in From Good to Great, the leaders of the healthiest and strongest organizations ("Level 5 leaders") are generally the antithesis of the high-drama, high-celebrity leader.
"We had no idea what was going on" isn't a valid excuse on the part of followers in most cases of toxic leaders. Many followers too eagerly forgive a toxic leader's obvious discretions because they're charmed by the leader's offsetting charms. Until it's too late.
This Phil Johnson sermon is about the prosperity gospel, but these paragraphs are a broader indictment of modern evangelicalism and could as easily apply to non-charismatic megachurch leaders and the parishoners who enable them:
Unless you live in total isolation and never read any news about the church and our testimony to the wider world, you must be aware that the evangelical movement worldwide is currently undergoing a doctrinal and philosophical meltdown of catastrophic proportions. By any measure you could possibly employ, the evangelical movement right now is more backslidden and more spiritually bankrupt than medieval Catholicism was just before the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. The evangelical movement of our generation has become a monstrosity. Doctrinal, moral, and political corruption are the rule rather than the exception -- and some of the largest and most visible evangelical and charismatic churches today are populated with people who absolutely love to have it that way. They don't want to hear any criticism or complaint about worldliness or bad doctrine. Their religion is all about self-aggrandizement, and they will not tolerate anyone who points that out.
Churches worldwide are full of people who aren't the least bit interested in scripture, or doctrine, or truthfulness. They just want to have a good experience and feel good about themselves. More than that, they want to hear that God feels good about them, and that He exists to do their bidding. And when someone comes along with any kind of critique that questions what they are doing or what they are teaching, that interrupts the illusion of well-being they have cultivated so carefully. So the average evangelical nowadays is tolerant of just about everything that happens in the church. The only thing evangelicals cannot abide is someone who keeps calling the church back to biblical faithfulness. Discernment is the one spiritual gift no one seems to want to practice or even hear about.
MORE: An explanation of toxic leadership, particularly in the political realm: Political Ponerology by Andrew Lobaczewski.
Tomorrow morning (Friday, September 19, 2014) at 8:05 am, I'll be on 1170 KFAQ with Pat Campbell to discuss "improvements" to the Arkansas River, the broad prairie stream that flows through the western and southwestern parts of the city of Tulsa. The "improvements" would involve renovating the Zink Lake dam, built in 1980, and building three new dams to fill the river to its banks, for a total cost estimated at $240 million. (UPDATE: Here's the audio of my KFAQ interview with Pat Campbell.)
Earlier this month, friends and fans paid their final respects to comedian Joan Rivers. She was a groundbreaker for women in stand-up comedy, Johnny Carson's long-time backup host on the Tonight Show and then his competitor, a survivor of personal and financial tragedy who made an impressive comeback, and a staunch supporter of Israel's right to exist.
But Joan Rivers may be best known, particularly among the younger generation, for her frequent trips to the plastic surgeon. Rivers demolished her natural beauty in pursuit of an elusive ideal and spent a fortune only to end up looking harsh, alien, and artificial.
What drives an attractive woman to undergo one expensive and risky elective surgery after another? The obvious cause is insecurity, low self-esteem. She must have been convinced that she could only be attractive if she drastically altered her appearance, and evidently no one could convince her otherwise.
You could ask the same question about cities. Why would a beautiful city pursue risky and expensive plastic surgery in pursuit of artificial enhancements that ultimately fail to increase the city's charm and appeal?
Whether Hollywood star or Midwestern city, the drive for extreme surgical makeovers betrays a lack of self-confidence and a break with reality. Many a city tore down charming Victorian or Craftsman homes for brutalist public housing towers. After World War II, owners of Art Deco and Romanesque Revival commercial buildings were persuaded to cover their facades with metal cladding, in order to look "modern" and "up-to-date." Decades later, building owners are tearing off the cladding to put the unique elements of each building on view once again.
Our consumption-driven economy thrives on insecurity and discontent. An unscrupulous plastic surgeon could boost his bottom line by persuading potential patients that they're hideous without his help. Heavy construction companies, civil engineering firms, and bond advisors and attorneys can benefit financially by persuading voters that their city is too ugly to attract residents and visitors, but paying them hundreds of millions of dollars will make the city presentable -- at least until it's time for the next nine-figure tax package.
Conventional wisdom is conventional, and the conventional wisdom about the Arkansas River is that it's ugly and no one wants to be around it because it isn't filled with water from bank to bank. If we want to have development along the river, the conventional wisdom goes, we need to ensure that there's water in the river by building new low-water dams and fixing the one we already have. And we have to have development along the river if we want to attract the kinds of young hipsters that pick where they want to live and then look for a job.
We have water in the river. What seems to annoy people is that we also have sandbars and shelves of shale that are visible when the water level is low. If only we would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build dams, we could raise the water level by a few feet and spare visitors the hideous sight of our sandbars. They they will like us and spend money here -- or so the deluded, insecure thinking goes.
But some of Tulsa's visitors really like our sandbars.
Wildlife in the river bed more interesting than a river full of water
On a frosty morning twenty-five years ago this January 21, I took my girlfriend to the Audubon Society's bald eagle watch. (Later that day I proposed to her.) At the time, we were amazed to realize that just 20 miles from downtown Tulsa you could watch our once-endangered national symbol in the wild. Earlier this year, in commemoration of that auspicious day, I took my family to the Audubon Society's bald eagle watch.
In 1989, the Audubon Society set up their eagle watch just below Keystone Dam. The eagles seemed to prefer the shallow waters below the dam to the deep and broad expanse of the lake above the dam.
In 2014, the Audubon Society set up their eagle watch in Helmerich Park, on the east bank of the river south of the 71st Street bridge. Over the years the eagles had extended their range downriver and into the City of Tulsa itself. We watched bald eagles come and go from a nest across the river on the west bank, notwithstanding the proximity of Jones Riverside Airport.
Click on the photos to enlarge.
We saw bald eagles, both white-headed adults and black-headed juveniles, soar above the river and dive down in search of a meal. And we saw hundreds of white pelicans.
As you can see from the photos, the pelicans preferred to roost in the shallows where the sandbars met the river or in shallow places where the sandbars were barely submerged.
The bald eagles liked the sandbars as well. We watched one mature bald eagle eating a fish on a sandbar, not far from a rivulet that crossed the sandbar to connect two branches of the main stream.
A gull tried to snatch the eagle's catch.
But the eagle waved him away.
A little while later, the adult was replaced by a juvenile, working on the same fish on the same sandbar.
This was the view of the Arkansas River from Helmerich Park on January 25, 2014, looking northwest toward the 71st Street bridge and Turkey Mountain. This is boring? This is ugly?
But instead of the shifting patterns of water and sand and the variety of wildlife, some Tulsans are adamant that we need a flat, monotonous expanse of water from shore to shore so that we can feel pretty.
What do we think "water in the river" will do for us?
When Tulsans enthuse about the impact of water in the river on tourism and economic development, they inevitably mention San Antonio's River Walk. The San Antonio River, as it bends through downtown, is about 40 feet wide -- about the width of a two-lane street. You can easily cross from one side to the other. You can easily spot someone you know on the other side and call out and wave. The Arkansas River through Tulsa ranges about 1000 to 1600 feet wide -- twenty-five to forty times wider.
In 2006, Canadian architect Bing Thom, hired by Tulsa's Warren family, proposed a way to create the River Walk feel: Excavate much of the west bank between 11th and 21st Streets, build an island with shopping and high-rise housing near to the east bank, with a little channel about the width of the San Antonio River separating it from the east bank. Price tag to the taxpayers would have been at least $600 million. Building housing in the river's floodway was unlikely to get Corps of Engineers approval. Excavating the west bank, once the site of oil refineries, might mean dredging up toxic materials now buried and settled.
If you want a street's-width River Walk, a better bet might be to follow OKC's lead and actually replace a street with a canal. Or tame one of our larger creeks and put development alongside. Combining the two ideas, the Elm Creek Master Drainage Plan includes a canal running down the middle of 6th Street east of Peoria. Many years ago, an architect proposed exposing the lower reach of buried Elm Creek, near 18th and Boston, for a creekside promenade.
Perhaps the water-in-the-river fanatics are thinking about the pleasures of watching the sun drop into the Pacific at nightfall. You really need at least 20 miles of open water to get that effect. That would mean excavating a lot more than the River West Festival Park. We'd have to flood Red Fork and turn Lookout Mountain into an island.
Maybe it's a reflecting pool that they want, so that motorists crossing the river on I-44 can spend some of their 15 seconds on the bridge looking north to see the skyline reflected in the river, just like that Ken Johnston painting. But even in that painting the water is rippled by the wind, as tends to happen with a broad, open expanse of water.
Do they think more dams on the river will bring about more recreation on the river? It's doubtful. Zink Lake has been around for over 30 years. The ferry boats and sailboats in mid-'70s "artist's conceptions" never materialized. Silt and sand don't let the water get too deep. We haven't even seen paddle boats on Zink Lake. Some number, probably not more than 100, participate in rowing on the river. I suspect more Tulsans had been on the river during the 1970s heyday of the Great Raft Race, prior to the completion of Zink Dam, than in the years since.
For a few years, Steve Smith ran airboat tours and then occasional guided canoe trips on the Arkansas River between Zink Dam and Keystone Dam. If I recall correctly, he tended to attract more out-of-town visitors who saw his brochure in the rack in the hotel lobby than locals. His descriptions of his tours, which you can find various places around the web, emphasize the variety you can see from the river -- wildlife, shoreline, little islands. But as far as I can find, he's no longer in that business.
Oklahoma City, Austin, and Wichita all have dammed, brimful rivers, but none of them have attracted vibrant riverfront development. The excitement in those cities is to be found in walkable neighborhoods of historic buildings away from the river.
We have a beautiful river. It needs some cleanup in places. The levees may need repair -- but that's a public safety and stormwater control matter, and we shouldn't let city leaders logroll elective cosmetic surgery in the same tax issue as a necessity. Let's stop listening to the hack plastic surgeons who want us to feel insecure enough to pay them hundreds of millions of dollars to "make us pretty." Let's appreciate the God-given beauty we already possess and the wildlife that enjoys it, in its changing variety.
The BatesLine archive of stories about the Arkansas River.
David Schuttler has some beautiful wintertime video of pelicans and herons from the stretch of the river west of Sand Springs:
John Eagleton writes to inform me that, after my appearance on KFAQ, all the "tax-and-spend hooligans" are angry with me. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saeculi saeculorum. Amen.
Charles Hardt, former City of Tulsa Director of Public Works, opposes building dams and encouraging development along the river. He says the 100-year-flood standard isn't stringent enough when it comes to the damage a river flood can do. Hardt's training is as a hydrologist, and he led the city's massive stormwater mitigation efforts following major floods in 1984 and 1986.
"We are talking about adding more things to the river banks and potentially in the river that could make the flooding worse and create the potential for a lot more loss of life and more property damages," he said.
Hardt said development in and along the river can act as a "plug" that impedes the natural flow of the river -- a flow that in times of heavy rainfall scours the river's bottom and banks to increase the river's capacity.
"You're encouraging development that is not compatible with the river's function, and that is to carry the water from upstream to downstream," he said....
Hardt's not just worried about the dams that might be built in the river. He's concerned about one that already exists -- Keystone Dam, and he would like to see a major push to study and repair Corps infrastructure projects.
"Its effectiveness and the maintenance of it and what its capabilities are needs to be well understood before we put other things downstream from it -- other things meaning low-water dams, development along the river," Hardt said.
Polls are now closed in Scotland, but it will be several hours until all the votes are counted in the referendum to decide whether its 307-year-old membership in the United Kingdom will be dissolved in favor of independence. The question on the ballot is simple: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"
Paul Monies, a Scotsman and British subject who reports on energy news for the Oklahoman, offers a summary of the arguments for and against and offers his own opinion and prediction:
Scotland's vote Thursday on a referendum for independence has been cast as a choice between the head and the heart.
The heart says the nation of 5.3 million people is strong enough and confident enough to dissolve the 307-year-old union it has with England and the rest of the United Kingdom. The head says the economic risks are too great for a small country in the global economy....
The No campaign, which calls itself "Better Together," says breaking up a political and monetary union will be messy, and the Yes campaign hasn't offered enough concrete details on how it will happen. Pensions, splitting up the U.K.'s national debt and how an independent Scotland will continue to use the pound as its currency are among the issues to be negotiated if Scots vote Yes.
Results will be tabulated and reported by each of Scotland's 32 local government areas. I don't think individual polling place results will be reported. According to Oliver O'Brien's map of estimated declaration times, first results are expected at 2 a.m. BST (8 p.m. Tulsa time) from Perth & Kinross, Moray, North Lanarkshire, East Lothian, the Western Isles, and the Orkneys. The big cities will declare a result at 5 a.m. BST.
You can listen to BBC Radio 4's coverage of the Scottish referendum results live online starting at 4 pm Thursday Tulsa time.
#indyref is the Twitter hashtag.
Peter Hanraty, vice president of Oklahoma's constitutional convention and mining safety activist, was an immigrant from Scotland.
The Telegraph has a series of photos of Scottish referendum demonstrations and campaign activities:
Former Labour PM Gordon Brown campaigns for maintaining the union. He looks more than a bit like the late comic actor Tony Hancock. "Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?"
Market Force Information polled over 5,000 consumers for a study of convenience store preferences. Tulsa-based QuikTrip had the highest "Composite Loyalty Score" at 79%, followed closely at 74% by Wawa, a 645-store chain founded 50 years ago in the Pennsylvania township of the same name and dominant in the mid-Atlantic states. QuikTrip has over 700 stores in and around Tulsa, Wichita, Kansas City, Omaha, Des Moines, St. Louis, Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix, and from Atlanta to Charlotte along the I-85 corridor.
QuikTrip had the highest ratings for friendly service, fast service, cleanliness (inside, outside, and restrooms), and high quality beverage station, with over two-thirds of respondents agreeing that those descriptions fit QuikTrip stores. QT also topped the "inviting atmosphere" category, but only with 51%.
Wawa finished second or third to QuikTrip in those categories, but topped QT in high quality coffee (Wawa 54%, QT 37%), high quality food (Wawa 42%, QuikTrip in 4th at 26%), and available amenities (Wawa 36%, QuikTrip in 5th at 22%).
In the food selection category, Sheetz, a 437-store chain in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, finished first with 54%, followed by Wawa at 49% and QT at 36%. Sheetz offers burgers, wings, wraps, pizza, burritos, and subs through a touchscreen ordering system.
Wawa Inc. started as an iron foundry in 1803, which launched a dairy in 1902, which opened small food markets to sell its products in 1964. Two years ago Wawa began expanding into the Orlando and Tampa metro areas in Florida, and newer, bigger, fuel-oriented stores are replacing older non-fuel locations in eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. Wawa is known for its wide variety of coffees and its built-to-order hoagie counter. As with QuikTrip, you expect Wawa stores to be clean and orderly. A couple of favorite features:
(1) To doctor your coffee, Wawa has quart cartons of its dairy's milk and half-and-half in a chilled well set into the coffee counter.
(2) For customers on low-carb diets, Wawa offers lidded snack cups filled with cheese cubes and pepperoni slices or carrot and celery sticks -- healthier alternatives to donut hole snack cups.
As far as I can tell, QT, Wawa, and Sheetz are not in any overlapping markets.
So congratulations to hometown QuikTrip, and we hope QT's spirit of innovation will spur them on to further improvements -- especially in the coffee department.
MORE: Sheetz, Wawa, QuickCheck (138 stores in New York and New Jersey), and QuikTrip are the top four in Facebook "likes" per store.